Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Writing

Success: Sam actually sleeps a few hours each day! haha. So I’m still exhausted, but finding some time to read and to write (and eat and nap and maybe even take a hot shower once in a while).

Blogs are one of the many things I’ve been trying to catch up on–both writing my own and reading some of my favorites. I love to read blogs written by authors, about their writing process, upcoming projects, and the quirky details of their lives. Neil Gaiman is always a good go-to, and I find Kristin Cashore and Jane Lindskold’s fascinating, too.

But Laini Taylor and Sarah J. Maas have been the most inspirational to me lately.

Laini Taylor has a blog post where she writes about her editing process: that she’s never been good at the fast, NaNoWriMo-style drafts and instead writes slowly, trying her best to get it right the first time.

Sarah J. Maas’ was not actually a blog post, I’m just remembering. My taking-care-of-a-newborn brain is always scattered. She recently gave a talk through Facebook Live at her alma mater, Hamilton College, and discussed how she needs to write every day, needs to always be working on a project, because writing is like a muscle that needs exercise. If one gets out of the habit, the muscle atrophies enough to make it that much harder to jump back into an effective rhythm.  And I will take any advice she gives, because she is one of the most prolific writers I can think of, with spectacular fantasy books!

All that to say: I think I need to back away from my NaNoWriMo-style writing for a bit and see what that does for this draft. Write slowly, write the scenes in chronological order, making it feel right before moving on, and making the commitment to write every day.

Furthermore, I think I need to stop thinking in terms of numbers, of giving myself high-pressure stakes. It can make the process too intimidating. I’m not in a period of life where I need any additional pressure or intimidation; I have to keep an infant alive, and attempt to get food and sleep myself once in a while, and keep my house relatively clean and running, and somehow face the impending return to work and all of the responsibilities that teaching high school English involves. Writing needs to be one of my bright spots, and that means being something fun to look forward to.

So my current goal revolves around just… writing. Plain and simple. If I write something every day, then I’ve succeeded. Sometimes that will mean working on my novel, but even on the days like yesterday when I only fit in 300 words, that’s fine. That counts. Some days that means working on a blog draft (this one blog has stretched over two days, so even though I didn’t have two posts in a day, I did some writing both days!) and that counts too. I don’t know yet if I’m going to count journaling in here… but for now, let’s say yes, if I find time to write in my handwritten journal, that was better than nothing.

As far as novel writing/editing, I currently have a thorough outline, and “progress” now means slowly but surely checking off each bullet point (which is a scene, basically) as it’s written. I’m not going to keep track of my word count throughout. Too often, I think I hit a mental roadblock of thinking that I need to get to about 80,000 words to be marketable, and sometimes start to write filler scenes or blab on and on about unimportant details just to fill up space. Not good–and all stuff an editor would probably say to cut anyway, ruining the point of the word count. So I’m sticking to the outline and trying to make sure it’s all action-oriented and moving the story forward (of course). At the end, we’ll see what the word count is like… if it’s suffered, well, at least the story will be tight. A beta reader can help me figure out where things ACTUALLY need to be fleshed out.

I don’t know how much this post makes sense to people who are outside of my head (that’s most of you. haha) but it can serve as a reminder and promise to myself of my current writing goals. I’m excited! Some of this motivation has been helped along by Gabriela Pereira’s “DIY MFA,” which I’ve been reading in the times I can steal during Sam’s naps that aren’t devoted to writing or eating. I just found out that she’s doing two talks (and workshops) in southern California this week, and I can make it to the Tuesday one! Will try to report back… :)

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Remember when I was really good at blogging twice a week? I miss those days.

Time keeps flying! I had 4 different blog posts drafted in January and ran out of steam on all of them. Part of it is having to pay so much attention to politics right now–reading all the news and deciphering what the heck is going on in DC takes up a lot of time and energy (and is surely leading to stress that is not good for the baby).

Because yeah, this baby is due in like 3 weeks. WHAT. I can’t believe how quickly this time has gone by, or how lucky I have been. A lot of the pregnancy symptoms I expected to suffer through did not manifest, like heartburn and swollen ankles. It’s mostly been exhaustion, some carpal tunnel, and constant back pain/bladder pressure. There are some potential genetic health issues that we have to watch for, but there’s nothing we can check/do until he is actually here, so I have tried my best not to be overwhelmed with anxiety about it. (It’s difficult.)

Being pregnant is pretty magical when you aren’t overly sick. I first felt the baby’s movements while Jeff and I were eating at La Tolteca, our favorite little Mexican restaurant by our old college, so that felt special, haha. His kicks seem to have personality–like, he kicks when I haven’t eaten recently enough and he’s getting hungry, and he kicks whenever the Avett Brothers come on my Pandora or music shuffle (not sure if that means he loves them or hates them, but we’ll hope it’s love, since I think they’re awesome), and he freezes his kicks when it’s Daddy’s hand instead of mine. Stinker. I had also heard that when babies get hiccups you can feel them because of the shaky little rhythm. That’s what I woke up to on New Year’s Day! (And no, I did not drink champagne and get him drunk, haha. We subbed in ginger ale, so maybe that had enough bubbles to get him hiccuping.) He’s had hiccups just about once per day since then.

I’m really curious to see what he looks like, and really anxious now that it’s officially February… his due date month… when I can’t be in denial anymore. He has to come out! Eek! I hope that all goes well and I’m surrounded by skilled nurses and doctors. So much can go wrong for either of us, and I can’t imagine the devastation some families go through when they were instead expecting joy and celebration. Sigh. It’s all in God’s hands…

On the writing side of life, my NaNoWriMo 2016 project went well, and I am pleased with it… but also not certain if, even after extensive revision, it would really have an audience. A fantasy-style Jungle Book: is it for kids, YA, adults? I think I need to narrow my focus there before revisions will succeed. I also tried out a few different POV characters but I think one of them is getting chopped–it added words but not substance to the story. MAYBE my son will be a spectacular sleeper and I can finish the revision on my maternity leave! hahahahaha. Not likely. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that. :)

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What a world we live in, eh?

But stronger people than me have already written plenty of political posts, so I shall refrain. And pray hard. And keep teaching my students to be critical thinkers, able to call out logical fallacies, to fight for truth and justice, and to understand each other, even when they feel they cannot love each other.

I realize I haven’t updated in a while. That’s for two reasons: we’ll start with the negative.

– Work is insane. Please never think that teachers do what they do solely for a paycheck (it’s lousy) or for vacations (they don’t balance out the hours lost during grading, at least for English). It requires so much to truly and holistically help each student, and since I volunteer with clubs on top of that, I am getting physically and mentally drained. My students are so worth it, but… I may have to cut back soon. Because…

+ I’m pregnant! I’m turning food into a people! hahaha. My app says that today, 25 weeks, “baby is as big as a rutabaga and uterus is the size of a soccer ball.” Whoaaaaaa life-making is a weird game. :) My son is kicking me as we speak (that’s not true, because we aren’t speaking and I can’t predict when you’ll read this, so… “as I type”) and is due late February but will probably hang out until early March, since that’s when my parents are planning to go on vacation. He’s been a stinker so far so why wouldn’t he continue the pattern with his actual birth? P.S. birthing classes are pretty terrifying. Birth is terrifying. Humans ought to lay eggs. My mom had better not be on vacation when I need her in the hospital!

+ I’ve finally been writing again. I suck at revisions, and I haven’t been able to make myself sit down and do them when so many other work- and life-demands abound. But, I had an inspiration for a new novel–your only hint is that it hit me while I was watching the new “The Jungle Book” adaptation–so I’m chasing it. My favorite writing program, Scrivener, made an iOS app, so I can keep everything organized even when I’m away from my computer. I’ve continued the project into NaNoWriMo, which I didn’t think I would dare to do this year… but writing in “sprints” of 10 minutes when I can squeeze them in, and using my evening time better (a.k.a. not scrolling through social media) has proven effective in keeping my word count strong.

So… that’s my world right now. I’m also in the midst of reading a novel from an author I like, Jane Lindskold. I was wandering through the bookstore and was struck by inspiration to see what she’s written lately, since I sort of forgot about her after the series I loved (the wolf/Firekeeper one) ended. The only novel B&N had in stock from her was “Artemis Awakening,” whose description sounded a bit like Westworld but not quite so dark. It’s creative and even though I still have a few chapters to go, I recommend it. Next up will be Marissa Meyer’s new (and first post-Lunar-Chronicles) novel, “Heartless.” I’m excited for it! (Even if the protagonist will eventually become an antagonist and she shares my name and I don’t like villains taking my name…)

Oh ALSO P.S. I was Rey for Halloween and made my baby bump into BB-8. I want to wear my Rey outfit every day because 2016 is stupid so why not cosplay as a strong female Jedi warrior 24/7?!? I won’t, I won’t. I’m not that weird. But know that I THINK ABOUT IT.

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Bring on 2016

I guess I forgot to update how NaNoWriMo 2015 went! I worked on a mixture of revising old words from the Copper manuscript and writing new scenes (from other characters’ perspectives as well as hers), so it wasn’t all 100% original writing, but I managed to get 60,000+ words this time–a personal record. I have a lot of work left to do on it… but once December 1st hit, I had to pay some attention to the stack of essays and other grading that I had been ignoring. :( Darn work.

2015 has been a good year as far as goals go. I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, because I vaguely think about it every year, and then summer hits and I’ve done nothing about it and get totally discouraged. So this time, I used MyFitnessPal regularly to log my calories, let myself splurge once in a while, walked the dog 5 days a week, and worked up to running with the dog… I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping to huff and puff in January, I now run 5K mileage almost every Saturday without feeling like death at all! My total weight loss for the year is about 33 pounds, putting me well within a normal BMI range (I know there are a lot of issues with BMI charts, but being here in the “normal” makes me feel much better, as I was in the “overweight” category for my height last January 1st. Blech.)

As much as I love Christmas, I don’t love the holiday weight gain that comes with my difficulty in turning down delicious Christmas cookies. However, my sister and I got severe food poisoning on the 22nd, so I was too weak to enjoy any holiday food and therefore avoided all the potential weight gain! Way to find a silver lining in a horrible vomit-filled experience, right?

As far as writing goals go, well, I still don’t have any of my novel rough drafts fully revised… so that will have to be a focus for 2016. I don’t like to write strict resolutions because then I focus on how far I am from the goal line, rather than how much progress I’ve made toward the goal line, but I think forcing myself to fully revise Copper is a fair goal to publicize.

With life goals, I want to improve my 5K time (I’m a slow runner–but at least I’m running!) and… excuse my language… learn to stop giving a fuck about things that don’t fit into my fuck budget.

In case that sounds confusing, yesterday I sat down with my journal and a copy of Sarah Knight’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and figured out exactly what things bring me joy–things I want to devote my time, energy, and money to–and what things bring on the annoy–things I need to quit wasting my time, energy, and money on. What I appreciated most about her book is that she understands how much of a burden guilt is–how much we don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who (probably unconsciously) are draining our time, energy, or money. So she recommends a lot of word play, which my writer self can appreciate, to help mitigate potential sore feelings. The book is also split into sections to help you ramp up into the places it’s hardest to fight back against, moving from “things” to “work” to “friends/acquaintances” to “family.”

I highly recommend this book. I struggle so much to say “no!”, but after reading and completing the worksheets in her book, I feel much better equipped to face things that stress me out and make them stop. I hope to be much less overwhelmed (I often feel, like Bilbo, “butter over too much bread”) and therefore more pleasant in the upcoming months. The Pantone color of the year for 2016, by the way, is “serenity” (blue)… I’m thinking a “serenity” year is in my future! [Color and Seinfeld references welcome. No Firefly ones though. I like my Firefly completely free of the atrocious Serenity connection.] Maybe I will even look into the original book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Haha, who am I kidding? I’m messy! Let’s not overload the goals! ;)

So yeah! 2015 treated me well. I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring, as I become a better writer, faster runner, and more mentally healthy woman. I hope my readers conquer some goals in 2016 too.

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Remember, remember, to write in November

NaNoWriMo is going strong, even though it means, most nights, staying up far later than I ought to. Why did they pick November, the time of all the major papers’ due dates?? I’m going to be grading forever. AND Marissa Meyer is releasing her final Lunar Chronicles book next Tuesday, which means I will have to find time to read, too. How am I going to do it all???

I really don’t know. But for any of you out there working on your own NaNoWriMo texts, remember that writing 500 words a day is better than 0… and then if you can push it to 1,000, that’s MUCH better than 0… and if you make it to 1,500, you’re practically at your daily word count anyway.

One more word than you thought you could… followed by one more sentence than you thought you could… and then suddenly there are paragraphs on the page that didn’t exist before.

Eventually, they might even be a real book.

And for those of you feeling stuck in your scene, consider doing what I just did:

ADD IN A MASSIVE ANGRY DRAGON AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS

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whoa oh, here we NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words around/around/around the world

^I don’t even know what song I’m changing the words to, because my husband listens to weird things on the radio. Renegade, maybe? I rarely catch the artist/titles.

Anyway…. November 1st has arrived. I think most of my readers have figured out what that means.

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

Here is what I’ve accomplished today:

  • hiked 3.5 miles with Benny Dog
    • and we saw this egret! I think his name is Ichabod Crane, haha.
    • IMG_2572
  • cleaned the upstairs bathroom
  • took a shower
  • made coffee
  • did 3 loads of laundry
  • graded 15 essays
  • roasted broccoli & bacon for lunch
  • WROTE 1800 WORDS
  • vacuumed upstairs, the stairs, and most of downstairs
  • did the dishes
  • went to my nephew’s first birthday dinner
    • isn't he cute?!

      isn’t he cute?!

  • went grocery shopping
  • cleaned the kitchen
  • cleaned the fish tank
  • sat down to write this blog

What do you notice about this day? That I like everything in multiples of 3! Just kidding (though not really…). That I was super productive with my extra hour? (Thanks, Daylight Savings! The one day a year that you’re helpful to me!) No no. In all seriousness, I AM prepared for November. The house is clean, my mind is set, and I’m launching NaNoWriMo once again. My daily word count has already been met! Just 29 more daily word counts to go!

I’m doing it differently this year, though. I’m at a point where writing a new draft of something is “easy,” where hitting 50,000 words is not that daunting. What is daunting is tackling a revision and letting other people see my stories. So this year, I’m using November to complete a revision, to polish up that darn Copper manuscript once and for all, and get it out there. No more fuzzy awkward middle section. No more love triangle (those things are so damn overdone and unrelatable). No more long introduction. No more weird twists (though there’s still a twist… maybe. We’ll see). Will this work? I don’t know. But I’m not as confident going into it as I have been the past few NaNos, and I kind of think that’s a good thing. Just like people don’t run 5Ks forever without starting to think about 10Ks and marathons, I can’t treat NaNoWriMo as an easy first step and never take the next one. I wouldn’t let a character get away with that, so I’m not letting myself get away with that.

Of course, I still have to teach 3 different English classes and grade all their papers and keep my house semi-clean (but at least it’s starting strong, so all the neglect to come won’t be the end of the world)… AND pay attention to my husband and dog and various other relationships, but November is mine. One month of putting myself and my goals first is allowed, I think.

So here we go! Keep me accountable!

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writing, reading, life. my usual tags.

Some good news:

My Beauty-and-the-Beast-themed fanfiction, entitled “War & Tea,” for “The Lunar Chronicles” contest is up on the website! It takes hitting the “load more” button about 20 times, so prepare to be patient. It makes no sense if you haven’t read Cinder and Scarlet (I placed it during Scarlet, before Cress and Winter), or if you are unfamiliar with the original version of “Beauty and the Beast” — or, honestly, the Disney version, since I referenced that in there too — but still… it’s fun to see one of my stories floating out there for the world to see. Scary, but good practice. I don’t think I’m going to win any of the prizes because I set it in the beginning of the story (with “Belle’s” family) when I probably should have set it later (with “Beast”) for maximum action and adventure. I wish I had heard about the contest sooner! I guess it started in August; I only knew about it for less than two weeks before the entries closed. Womp womp. But if I don’t win, I’ll post the text on the blog, so we’ll all still win (or something). I can’t wait for the final book to come out, by the way. I have a few predictions of events that will happen in Winter, but still a lot of questions, too… I’m excited to see how Marissa Meyer wraps it all up!

I’m reading Leigh Bardugo’s new book, Six of Crows, which came out this Tuesday, and loving it. It’s like “The Italian Job” but with more magic and knife fights and, so far, no Mini Coopers. The author shifts perspectives among each of the crew members and I’m tempted to try it out for Copper so readers experience more of the full story; maybe I’ll play with it during this final month leading up to NaNoWriMo. (I’m still torn between writing a brand new something-or-other or revising one of my shitty first drafts.) Anyway, that’s enough updating for now, because I’m only 135 pages in and want to get more reading in before bed! It’s been a long week and I personally believe I deserve a break from work/life/chores to read a great book. ;)

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